Take some time for yourself to relax and find some inner quiet
Take some time for yourself to relax and find some inner quiet.
Some people find that meditating helps them so much that it becomes part of their daily routine. If you have not meditated before then read below and give it a try. It can be difficult to begin with but don’t give up, it will get easier with time and you will start to feel the benefits.
“I never realised how much meditation could help me, from being a very angry anxious person , I found after a while that things didn’t affect me so much. I try and meditate every day for 20 minutes. It is usually the best time of the day…..”
With all the stresses and difficulties of our everyday lives it is easy for us to rush around and get caught up in endless activities. We are constantly distracted by the outside world, all the things we have to do and get done. We also choose to distract ourselves with external things, believing that they will help us with the problems and sufferings that we have in our lives. Although it may give us a feeling of happiness it’s usually only lasts for a short time and then we find ourselves looking for something else to give us that sense of happiness. We can find ourselves chasing after so many things yet still feeling discontented and ultimately unhappy.
It can be difficult to believe sometimes but those things on the outside cannot ever bring us true happiness. It is the way we look at things that really gives us happiness, its our thoughts, our sense of well being and having peace of mind that helps us to deal with all the joys and sufferings that we experience in our lives. So to help us, it’s a good idea to take some time just for us, to sit and relax our mind. Just like we rest the body at night, with meditation we rest and quiet the mind during the day.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a time we take to sit quietly and let the mind relax. The constant stream of thoughts that run through our mind can often become overwhelming. Meditation enables us to let those thoughts quieten and soften, allowing us to find a stillness and ease which helps us with our daily thoughts and activities. Meditation practice allows us to become calm and clear and when this happens, from a Buddhist point of view, other good qualities of the mind can come through.
How do I practice meditation?
First of all, find a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed. Sometimes its nice to create a space where you have some of your special things, such as pictures and photos of special people and places that bring good and happy thoughts to your mind. You’ll also find it good to wear some loose, warm, comfortable clothing.
How should I sit?
Relaxed yet straight!
Good posture is essential for good meditation practice, establishing the right body posture helps the mind to settle down. Its very important that our back is straight, so try keeping the neck, back and head in a straight line, imagining there is a pillar of light from where your bottom rests on the cushion up through your spine and out through the top of your head.
If you can, its best to sit cross-legged on the floor, use a cushion to support your bottom and to give you height so that your knees can rest comfortably on the floor. (Tip! If you’re not used to sitting cross-legged it may take a little practice, try sitting on the floor when watching TV and very quickly, with practice, you will find it quickly becomes easier). You can either relax your hands on your thighs or you can have them in your lap like Buddha. In this case, rest your right hand on your left and touch your thumbs together.
Become aware of the muscles in your face and soften them, letting all the tension go. Relax your mouth and rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth (this helps to reduce the saliva produced) and relax your eyes, keep them open, looking at a point about 3 feet away. Its important to meditate with the eyes open as it helps the mind become clear. If you find this difficult, you can begin with closing the eyes and then gradually introduce opening them. Experiment with it, see how your experience is different with your eyes open and closed.
If you find sitting on the floor too difficult you can sit on a chair, with both feet on the floor hip-width apart, with your back straight, not leaning to either side or forwards or backwards. Rest your hands, palms facing down, comfortably on your thighs.
When is the best time to meditate?
Try to find a time that will work in your everyday life, we find that either in the morning or evening just before bed works well. But take the time to see what works best for you.
How long should I meditate for?
Buddhist teachers recommend that it’s better to start with lots of short sessions rather than try to endure an hour. So start by sitting for five minutes, there is more benefit in practicing 5 minutes a day every day than one hour once a month. But remember, be gentle on yourself, don’t expect to achieve perfect practice straight away and don’t get discouraged if you find it difficult, like anything it takes practice and perseverance. It’s a good idea to make a little plan, starting with 5 minutes practice a day and slowly building it up until you are sitting for an hour a day twice a day! Encourage yourself to take this time for you, don’t beat yourself into doing it!
What happens during meditation?
With our bodies we learn to relax and feel at ease and likewise with our minds we can become relaxed and at ease. When we start meditating we notice that our minds are very busy and that our thoughts constantly jump around all over the place. What should we do? Should we try to tell our mind to be quiet? If we do, it will soon become clear that the mind will not listen. If we try to tell our mind to stop thinking so much it will probably get busier. Often the more we try, the worse it gets! So what should we do? We have to learn to just let the them be, so that when thoughts and emotions come up, we can just let them go rather than following them.
When we stand outside on a summer’s day and look up at the sky we see the clouds drifting around, very much like thoughts. They drift in and drift off and don’t need to be followed or chased anywhere. The aim is to not get caught up in our thoughts, just notice them and then let them go. We try not to judge our thoughts, ‘this thought is good or this thought is bad’ and instead just let them be, recognising that it is just a thought. Thoughts come and go and emotions come and go, we don’t react we just let them be.
If we are able to do this, we will feel a sense of being in control rather than being controlled by our thoughts and emotions. Usually we are overpowered by our thoughts, emotions and memories and they take us over. This is what causes all of our difficulties and anxieties, but by not giving our thoughts any power we can relax and feel confident that whatever comes into our mind we can let go of.
A focus to help us with our meditation practice
Sometimes when we’re doing our meditation practice, all seems to be going well and suddenly, we notice that we’ve got caught up in our thoughts and gone on a long adventure. What can we do to bring us back? A traditional method in the Buddhist teachings is to use our breath to bring us back into the present. So whenever we notice that we are distracted we gently bring our awareness back to our breath. We can focus our attention on counting a complete breathing cycle, (ie breath in, breath out = 1) and try to keep focused on this until we get to 10. Then repeat the counting process again and again until we do it without even thinking. Practice is what makes us learn and meditation is practising. First we learn and then we practice what we learnt, and keep on doing it!
If you find focussing on your breath difficult, another method used in Tibetan Buddhism is focussing on an object. Choose something that will not make the mind busier, such as a pebble. Place it in front of you and focus your awareness on it. In the same way as you bought your attention back to your breath when you noticed that your mind had wandered, do the same by focussing your attention on the pebble. Don’t worry if you realise that your mind keeps wandering off, just gently bring your focus back to the pebble.
How will I know that my meditation practice is going well?
You may find that feelings such as anger and other strong emotions have become weaker and that you are no longer overwhelmed by them as much as you once were. You will find that situations that you used to find stressful will feel a little lighter and will be easier for you.
We wish you all the best with your meditation and hope that it brings you much happiness.
Where can I find out more about Buddhism and Buddhist meditation?
Samye Ling in Scotland is the largest Buddhist Monastery in Europe, the website has Buddhist teachings that you can read as well as information about events being held
You may want to find out about the life of Buddha, The film ‘Little Buddha’ with Keanu Reeves explains Buddha’s life and also shows the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.